Developed By: M2 Published By: Taito, ININ Games, Strictly Limited Games Categories: Retro, Shmup, Compilation Release Date: 06.30.23
Taito and M2. What better combination can I think of when it comes to retro game collections. Mix in ININ and Strictly Limited and you have my attention at it’s peak. The latest of these sets is the Ray’z Arcade Chronology. A bundle that contains the three vertical shmups RayForce, RayStorm, and RayCrisis. Are these good games? Did M2 hit another home run? Lets dig in.
If you’re a fan of M2’s Shottriggers series, then you’re going to be in for a treat. This is one of those in everything but name. The gadgets being included previously seen in the Darius Cozmic Collection and Revelation are back and I love them just as much as I did back when I was introduced to them. Need stats like the stage? Difficulty or skill level? Your weapon ranks? In this set’s case what you’re locked on to? How about the music that’s playing? It’s on display. I love it and wish more developers would put this kind of love into their games. Alas, M2 is going to keep on keeping on with this.
Force Your Way In
The first of our games is RayForce. This is my least favorite game in the collection. Not that’s it’s bad, but I feel it’s more of what the later games would build off of to make greatness. What starts here, goes on to the sequels. RayStorm stands out from other shmups by having two forms of fire. You have your regular shot and then a homing laser. There’s two plane of the playing field. Your shots are on the level, and the laser is for lower areas, such as approaching ships, ground units, and parts of bosses. To me, this came off like Xevious, which was nice. But as soon as you get to later levels, you’re almost exclusively using that laser. Especially for bosses. It becomes a pain and a trial as there is no point to using your regular fire. I suppose it’s to make sure you learned how to use the laser, but instead just feels unbalanced.
All that said. It still felt great to play when it didn’t force one way or another. It has some nice sprites, which is no surprise as it’s an arcade game from 1994 and I love Tamayo Kawamoto’s music. Would it just be easier to say Zuntata again?
Riding the Storm
Up next is a game I love, RayStorm. It’s in 3D now and like G-Darius in Comic Revelation, we have a nice, slick HD remaster to play with. Though not the RayStorm HD from a decade ago. That is, in addition to the original arcade game. I’m fond of this era of 3D games, so I’ll be fine with both, though the higher resolution is a treat. RayStorm starts with a bit of customization. What ship with what kind of shot and lock on do you want? Then, do you want the lock on and shot on the same button? Lets go in deep now.
This time around, the lock on has a bit more function. Yes, you can still shoot on the lower plane, but the lock on also can get objects in the level plane for a bit of extra firepower. This is how it should have been before, but I’m not going to complain about evolution. Shooting ends up feeling even better this time around because of how much your homing missile can hit. And much like in RayForce, weapons can be upgraded. But if you just need a quick “OH SHIT” button, you always have a Special Attack which acts like a “shoot everything now”.
Maybe it’s the 3D models and environments giving a sense of scale, but RayStorm really does make you feel like you’re moving fast. It’s more chaotic, it’s like a war. I’m not exactly keen on being slow in shmups, so the smoother and more jet-like these games feel, the better. This also means, you’re probably in more danger at more times. I found I died a lot more. I can’t say the enemy shots (they’re red a lot of the time) blended in, but it just felt like a constant threat more often. Not a problem, this genre is supposed to be challenging.
The music this time feels a lot like the dreamlike sounds that the later Darius games had. It’s definitely not what people would often say is a fit for the genre, but it’s fantastic and gets me in the groove. That’s all that really matters honestly.
By the by, RayStorm has mulitplayer. How many shmups can you think of that have that? Is Twinbee one of the bigger ones?
Eliminating A Crisis
Our third and final game in this collection is RayCrisis. In RayCrisis, you take control of a Waverider, a means to get a virus into a super computer, the Neuro-Computer Con-Human, of which gained sentience and then rebelled. This is Operation RayCrisis.
RayCrisis plays very much RayStorm did, and like how Storm was to Force, it feels like more improvements building onto that core. Normal shots, a target to home in on enemies, and that screen clear of a special attack. The key mechanic and what sets it apart from the previous games is the Encroachment system. You’ll always have a percentage on display. It is in your best interest to keep this as low as possible. The moment it hits 100%, Con-Human will know what you’re doing and the mission is over.
The two year gaps between games only mean that the games keep looking better and better. Stylish, more elaborate. More chaotic, more tech. I absolutely love this era of 3D games too. Glad that it is slowly, but surely making a comeback. Either through these re-releases or through indie games. More of Zuntata’s trance-like music floods into this game and my ears. I really need to just get all of these OSTs.
And Then Some
Outside of the usual emulator fixings, Ray’z Arcade Chronology is a bit lacking in terms of extras. Taito doesn’t usually go all in with extras, which is always disappointing, seeing as their collections with M2 are amazing otherwise. I mean, the loading screens are the ships using their homing laser, it’s genius! If I was a stickler, I could say the collection could be a bit bigger, but the Strictly Limited Games edition includes the previously unreleased R-Gear. The biggest bonus outside of the Gadgets is probably the different music you can use. I’m down for the default, but I do enjoy the option and it’s kinda cute you can use Layer Section (the console port of RayForce) tunes.
All that said. Play Ray’z Arcade Chronology. Get Taito to hire M2 to do more of these releases and get SLG and ININ to release them outside of Japan and physically. This release pretty much, at least if you want the arcade version of RayForce, makes the Saturn Tribute release on the eShop worthless. But, I do enjoy the option to have both the console and arcade releases available. Older console ports are so often just throw away.
Buy Now: $49.99 Standard – $131.99 Collector’s Edition
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review